Dead Sea canal put on hold

Palestinian and Arab pressure on King Abdullah of Jordan has brought the Dead Sea canal project to a standstill, according to Israeli sources.

The joint Israeli-Jordanian initiative to build a canal from the Red Sea to the rapidly drying Dead Sea with tourism infrastructure on both banks was seen as too much normalisation with Israel.

Environmental groups that had opposed the project claimed it was their opposition that had swayed the leaders’ minds, but the JC has learnt of other forces arrayed against it.

According to a senior source close to Israeli president Shimon Peres, King Abdullah told the president last month in Amman that he was under pressure from Palestinians in his kingdom and other Arab leaders not to enter such a large project with the Israelis.

Despite a 1994 peace treaty between the two countries, Jordan has been wary of seeming too friendly with Israel, mainly due to its large Palestinian population.

The canal was to be the centrepiece of President Peres’s “Peace Valley” project. Israeli tycoon Yitzhak Teshuva was planning to invest billions of dollars in building the hotels, shopping complexes, a safari park and water-amusement parks.

Mr Peres, King Abdullah and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were to have inaugurated the project two weeks ago, but the ceremony was cancelled. Since then, the whole project has been unofficially put on hold.

    Last updated: 9:59am, July 10 2008